wishing to have drowned

“Look, poet, love is never what we think it will be. Love is like a boy trying to rescue a drowned girl from the sea and falling in himself.”
“Yes, but what a beautiful death. Oh I wish I had drowned, I wish I had drowned.”

– The Book of Flying by Keith Miller

Yes, it’s irrational. Maturity and common sense regard Icarus as a fool, and that belief is difficult to contest. But the intense, almost magnetic fascination for the story of Icarus has survived these admonitions. Yes, he fell. But he flew closest to the sun. Only he can claim the sky; it is the territory of his memory.

So now, a poem:

Icarus by Edward Field

Only the feathers floating around the hat
Showed that anything more spectacular had occurred
Than the usual drowning. The police preferred to ignore
The confusing aspects of the case,
And the witnesses ran off to a gang war.
So the report filed and forgotten in the archives read simply
Drowned, but it was wrong: Icarus
Had swum away, coming at last to the city
Where he rented a house and tended the garden.
That nice Mr. Hicks the neighbors called him,
Never dreaming that the gray, respectable suit
Concealed arms that had controlled huge wings
Nor that those sad, defeated eyes had once
Compelled the sun. And had he told them
They would have answered with a shocked, uncomprehending stare.
No, he could not disturb their neat front yards;
Yet all his books insisted that this was a horrible mistake:
What was he doing aging in a suburb?
Can the genius of the hero fall
To the middling stature of the merely talented?

And nightly Icarus probes his wound
And daily in his workshop, curtains carefully drawn,
Constructs small wings and tries to fly
To the lighting fixture on the ceiling:
Fails every time and hates himself for trying.

He had thought himself a hero, had acted heroically,
And now dreamt of his fall, the tragic fall of the hero;
But now rides commuter trains,
Serves on various committees,
And wishes he had drowned.

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